This is an alternate uber story. The physical descriptions of the two lead characters may remind you of two others we all know and love, but all characters in the story are from my own imagination. This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. It cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copyright 2009.
Feedback will be welcomed at email@example.com
Author's note: The story is a continuation of my previous Halloween story, The Haunting.
She ran. She ran fast. She ran faster. The small blonde rushed through the deserted city streets with only the full moon as a companion. At least the only companion that she wanted. The shadows were behind her, but not far enough behind. She could almost feel the hot breath down the collar of her shirt, feel them about to overtake her at any minute. But she dare not spare the time to look. She was the mouse in this chase, and when they decided it was over, it would be over. But she ran faster still, only the surge of adrenalin pushing her muscles and sending her heart racing like a space ship to the stars. But even that couldn't last forever. And if she stopped…it would be the end. A stray thought flashed across her brain. Maybe that would be best. At least it would be over. No! I won't do that to her! She shook off the defeatest attitude, her emerald eyes checking the landmarks, and hoping she remembered correctly. She had been there before. But not alone.
They nearly caught her once on this night, knocking her off balance, causing her to tumble down a rocky hill in the park. Elbows and knees slammed into the hard ground over and over again until a wall stopped her momentum. But even severely disoriented and injured, she had quickly regained her footing, keeping just out of the reach of the clawed, skeletal fingers of the dark demons.
Now, with every step she could feel the blood sliding down her right calf, seeping into her shoe. Squish. Squish. She felt the skin separating, tearing with every movement. But she ignored the searing pain. Suddenly and uneasily, she jumped a grate in the sidewalk, afraid the rattle of metal would alert more of them to her presence.
She would never make it home. Not even to the passable copy this land offered. Everything was exactly the same here. But it was all drastically different. The cement in the streets was buckled and cracked. But then no one here needed a car. There was not a speck of color to be found. It was like being in a black and white…or more precisely gray movie. There were no sounds from the real world…no birds chirping, no bustle of activity along the sidewalks, no one heading home from jobs, even though the downtown office buildings were there. There was not a single living soul. It was a dead world.
She had been running at top speed for more than half an hour and her legs were about to fail. Her lungs burned, not able to inhale enough oxygen. The hot, sticky, forever night clung to her skin like a wet, woolen cape dragging her down. Her body screamed in agony. She had to stop. A blackened alley suddenly came into view and she saw an opportunity. In the regular world, she would never enter a dark alley because of the possible danger. But here it was all dark. And danger was everywhere. So she took the chance.
Quickly, but quietly moving to the farthest end, she crouched into a tight ball in the corner. With her body donned in black, and her light locks hidden beneath a cap, she melted into the stealthily shadows. The heaving of her chest was the only movement she risked. A screech, out on the street, ran her blood cold, but she didn't twitch an inch. Another scream, and then one more. They were talking…plotting and scheming.
One green eye opened to a slit, peering out into the otherwise silent night. She reeled in horror as she saw two tattered forms, blacker than black, floating down the alley right in her direction.
She had no weapons. But then no ordinary ones would phase these creatures. Her fists would be deadly...but only to herself.
One more peek. They were almost upon her.
Suddenly, there was a quick movement behind her. Hands grabbed her arms, and her slight body was pulled backward. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." The words were desperately whispered in her ear.
She cried because it was over…for now. She cried because of the pain in her battered, bruised and exhausted body. She cried with relief because she was cradled in the arms of her loving partner. She trusted those arms to keep her safe.
But she didn't trust herself.
"I promise you'll never have to do this again Allie," the rescuer said. "I love you. I'll keep you safe somehow, but it won't happen here."
The blonde sobbed heavily. "I just want to go home Lane."
In a flash of light, Lane McKay granted that request. As the light faded, the weary couple found themselves on their family room floor. Lane continued cuddling her lover as she glanced out the window. Upon their return, she always did a quick visual check just to make sure they were really home. The sun was always a dead…live give away. The sunshine, though waning, cast long, but innocent shadows across the wood floors before them. "Come on Sweets, I'm taking you to the hospital."
Allie robotically nodded, but barely moved. Lane unfolded her long frame and easily got to her feet, bringing her smaller partner with her. Only then did Lane notice the small pool of blood on the floor. "Damn!" She tore off her tee shirt and bent to wrap it around Allie's injured leg.
"Lane, I don't think I can…" Allie buckled, but Lane's quick hands caught her.
"I gotcha. I gotcha." Lane hurried to the front door with her passenger.
The tall woman obeyed the order with confusion. "Why, Baby, you need a doctor?"
Even through her pain, Allie grinned and ran a finger tip down Lane's chest and across the top of her black bra. "And you need a shirt," Allie informed her.
A fabulous grin split Lane's concerned face. She leaned over and kissed her lover with gentle, but intense passion. "I love you."
"I love you too," Allie said, as she laid her tired, blonde head against a strong shoulder.
"I'm sorry," Lane said with her next guilty breath.
Allie sighed. "I know."
The small woman was placed into a nearby chair and Lane dashed off to the laundry room, grabbing a shirt from a stack of clean clothes. Retrieving her injured blonde, McKay was once again off to the emergency room.
* * *
Hours later, both exhausted women were back home. Allie was tucked into their big soft bed, now clean, stitched and with pain medication and anti-biotics coursing through her bloodstream, was calmly sleeping.
Lane, while calm on the outside, cursed herself silently for nearly causing her partner's death. She sat in the dimly lit room, in a chair at Allie's bedside, watching her blonde in slumber. But she feared that the peace currently registered on Allie's face would soon turn to terrific nightmares. Allie hadn't spoken about her other worldly encounter. And Lane hadn't asked. She didn't need to, the condition of her lover's body and the blonde's lack of words spoke volumes to her. At the hospital, they had made up a story about Allie falling while jogging. They certainly couldn't tell anyone the truth.
Lane removed an object from her pocket, rubbing its smooth surface between her fingers. It's been almost a year, she thought. Lane remembered how absurd everything had sounded on that November morning.
* * *
"What do you think is really up there?" Allie asked. They sat at the table having breakfast, after a mostly sleepless night. The morning had so far been quiet, no more spooky noises, no more ghostly visits. But the creepy memories and the previous evening's ominous announcement hung heavily in the air.
Lane took a long swallow of her coffee. "I don't know," she answered quietly. Actually, it was the spectral visit from her mother and grandmother that had affected her more then any prophesied destiny or hidden antique. "Maybe we should just let it be…whatever it is."
Allie nodded once. "Of course it is your decision, Honey, but do you really want to ignore a request from your relatives. They seemed pretty adamant." Just saying that about a ghost sounded odd to her ears. But it had happened. And the spirits deserved respect.
Lane and Allie both had had a hard time accepting the fact that they had spoken to ghosts. They briefly considered a number of alternative explanations like a shared hallucination, a dream, a Halloween prank…but ultimately those were dismissed. It wasn't that the ladies didn't believe in paranormal phenomenon, they just hadn't ever had such a realistic experience.
Lane retreated into her thoughts as they finished the morning meal and washed the dishes. Allie decided to let her lover have all the time she needed to process everything and make her decisions. When the last dish was put away, Lane dashed off to her office and closed the door. Allie was left speculating and roaming around the house, not quite sure what to do. Luckily, Lane had already taken down all of the Halloween props from her haunted house. Seeing skeletons, bats and webs would have been too much to handle. The tension was heavy enough without it.
Lane finally emerged from her room about an hour later. She tracked her partner down on the front porch, where Allie was enjoying the crisp, fall morning. The tall woman silently took Allie into her arms.
"What's wrong Sweetheart?" the blonde asked.
"Nothing. Let's go inside." Once in the house, Lane repeated the hug. "I love you."
"I love you too. But you're scaring me."
"I'm sorry," Lane said. "I'm sorry for all of this, for everything that's happened. I don't know what I'm getting into, but maybe it would be better if you left for awhile."
Allie pulled away, an incredulous expression sculpting her features. "I can't believe you would even suggest that," she said. "I will not leave you to face this alone. We are partners in everything. And together we can handle anything."
Lane smiled and nodded. She had expected this reaction. But she would have preferred if Allie had been a little selfish this time. "Okay," Lane said. "I guess I'm ready to go up and find this thing."
Fifteen minutes later, Allie and Lane sat on the dusty floor of the small room on the top level of their house. They both silently stared at their find. The moment Lane had touched it, the foreboding feeling that had settled over the house, instantly vanished, like a murky fog lifting away. It was a small, rectangular shaped box, about seven inches by five inches. There was nothing special looking about it, no carvings or markings of any kind. The wood was old and scarred and the latch, once shiny and new decades ago was now scratched and tarnished.
"I guess we should look inside," Lane suggested nervously. Allie merely nodded in agreement. Tentatively, Lane reached out and traced a finger across the lid, ending at a front corner. The box creaked as the hinged top separated from the body. Lane and Allie met each other's eyes after they saw the item inside. It seemed harmless enough. Lane lifted the simple leather bound book from its wooden cradle. Releasing the ties with an easy movement, she lifted the front cover and gently flipped through the first few pages. Handwritten script formed sentences across yellowed, brittle paper. Lane read aloud.
Hello my kinsmen. What you are about to read is fantastic, unbelievable and terrifying. But it is the truth, so help me God. I know well the questions you will have, but I'm afraid I can provide very few complete answers. I can only state the facts and rules, as told to me. You must follow these to the letter.
Centuries ago, our bloodline was chosen as A Guardian of the Passage. No one knows why we were chosen or by whom. But many generations have bravely accomplished the tasks. Secrecy is an absolute! I am certain that you knew nothing of the legacy until now, your destined time. But I have every confidence that you will fulfill that destiny. And pass it on to your blood progeny when the time arrives.
At the back of this book you will find a diary of sorts, entries from your ancestors that you will find helpful in the performance of your duties.
We are entrusted with keeping the wicked at bay. There are many dark worlds, which harbor horrific creatures whose mission is singular... invade the living world and infect the human population with their pure evil. No one knows what they are or how they came to be, they just exist. The only way they can physically enter our world is through a magical passage, a doorway. They can, however, haunt the living and contaminate dreams.
Lane stopped and took a much needed breath. Her dark head shook doubtfully. "This can't be real…can it? Things like this don't exist."
Allie placed her hand on Lane's knee. She needed the connection as they forged ahead with the investigation. "The obvious thing to say would be, this is impossible, ridiculous, but I know we were visited by your deceased mother and grandmother last night. And if that is possible, than why not this? Even though it is terrifying to consider."
Lane was still dumbfounded. "I guess so. What's scarier is what will happen if I fail. The world…"
"Easy Baby, you don't even know what it is you have to do yet. Are you going to continue now?"
Lane replaced the book and picked up the box, climbing to her feet. She held out a hand and pulled Allie up into her embrace. "Let's go downstairs where it's more comfortable. I need some time to wrap my head around all this." When they reached the top of the stairs, Lane stopped. She pulled her lover close, into a hug. "I love you," she said. "And I promise never to let anything in this world or any other harm you."
"I know Honey. And you have to know I feel the same."
* * *
Back in the present, Lane stared at the menacing object within her grasp. It had failed her. She wanted to drop it in the nearest trash can and be done with all of it.
But how could she do that. The fate of the world was at stake. But Lane wasn't a superhero with super powers. She was just a fragile mortal…with only a small talisman to offer any protection. The turbulent blue eyes looked to the injured blonde in her bed. And Allie only had her for protection. "But I broke my promise," Lane mumbled lowly. "I let you get hurt." She hated herself. She hated her…destiny…her legacy. "Some legacy. How did you do this Gram? How did you keep your family safe?"
"I kept it a secret from my loved ones."
Lane jumped at the sound of the voice…the disembodied voice. Although she did recognize it. "Gram?"
"Yes Elaine, it's me. I'm sorry, I don't have the energy to appear to you in physical form, but we can talk."
"So you just lied to everyone."
"For their own safety, yes. I had hoped to inform you of your quest in private, but when I realized you were being haunted by the darkness, I wanted to put that to a quick end."
The dark head shook tiredly. "I could never have lied to Allie about this. She would have known I was keeping a secret. We know each other too well."
"I'm sorry you've had to learn such a painful lesson," the voice said. "She will recuperate, won't she?"
"Of course, but what about next time?"
"You must make sure there is no next time. This is your task to be carried out alone."
"Allie will never let me go alone. And if I tried to sneak away, it would betray her trust."
"I'm sorry Elaine. I'm sorry for her pain and for yours. But I know you will continue to do what's right. Won't you?"
Lane didn't answer. She thought about the future. How were they supposed to have children if the danger still persisted? Maybe that's the one thing that would keep Allie home, she thought positively. But there's always a babysitter. And if I don't have an offspring, who will…? Lane groaned and scrubbed her face in frustration. She knew her grandmother was waiting for an answer. And she gave one. "Yes, I will."
"I'm proud of you."
Lane chuckled humorously. "I wish I could be proud of me. I was then."
* * *
Back on that first day, they sat at the table, once again staring at the seemingly innocuous box. The worn book was in Lane's hand, but she was scared to continue reading. But at the same time she felt a sense of urgency pushing her on. She sipped on a glass of water, contemplating everything. In less than twenty-four hours her world had turned upside down. She knew that the planet and the human race were always in peril from different situations, but that was from our own actions. She wondered how one person could possibly detour pure evil. I guess I could find that out if I just start reading. "Here goes," she said cautiously.
Now is the time to discover the key, the artifact that will allow you to perform the task. Lift the panel below the book.
Allie peered inside the box without touching. "Panel? I don't see…how do you get it out?"
Lane brought the box closer. She studied it and had no answer either. She touched inside on the bottom and felt it slightly spring beneath her fingertips. Lane pushed down harder and it popped up. The blue eyes squinted when they spied what was underneath.
Allie also had a look. "That doesn't look like a key," she said curiously.
"I guess they liked to describe in metaphor." Inside the box was a polished, brown, flat stone. Lane picked up the stone and placed it in the palm of her right hand. A blinding flash of light exploded from the thing, causing Lane to nearly drop it.
"Wow!" Allie exclaimed, waiting for her sight to return. "Okay, that is definitely no ordinary stone."
The special artifact, still in Lane's palm, now glowed softly from within. It pulsed in a steady cadence. The blue eyes were hypnotically glued to the shining, solid mineral. A thousand pictures flashed across the folds of the dark haired woman's brain, giving her a cursory introduction to every ancestor who had previously wielded the key.
Allie cautiously touched it with a single finger. It was cool and slick. She watched the stable rhythm of light with an inquisitive gaze. "It's like a heartbeat," she uttered with astonishment.
"It is a heartbeat," Lane said seriously. "It's alive. It's just been…in hibernation." She had made a solid connection with the artifact. Or more precisely, the stone connected to her. A single touch was all it took. Lane's fingers closed over the object and the soothing, warm vibration settled easily into her soul. Her eyes slid shut and an odd expression fell over her beautiful features.
Allie reached out and stroked her lover's arm. "Are you alright Honey?"
Lane opened her eyes and she smiled lovingly. "Yes Sweets, I'm fine." She replaced the stone back in its home and picked up the journal to continue reading.
The key is now yours. It is one with you. Now I will endeavor to instruct you how to use it. But you must wield it carefully. And you must protect it with your life.
"Wait a minute," Allie interjected. "I don't like the sound of that."
"I'm sure it won't come to that," Lane declared calmly. "No one in my family has lost their life to this yet."
"How do you know that? If this thing is supposed to be so secretive, then you wouldn't have heard about it."
The dark head tipped in thought. "I suppose you're right about that," Lane conceded. "But…don't ask me how I know, but I am positive that no ancestor of mine has died doing this."
Allie was still uncertain, but she kept her concerns to herself for the moment. She listened intently to the rest.
Never misuse it and never lose it. The key has three functions. It is a transportation device to the other universe. It is a repair tool. It is a protector.
Because of our…your connection to the key, it follows our thoughts. It will transfer you to the darkness and home again with just a thought. But that is the only place it can transport you to.
"Bummer," Allie said in a monotone. "I thought maybe now we could afford that trip to Europe."
Lane chuckled at the necessary levity before continuing.
The demons are always testing the strength of the passage. They are always trying to break through to our side. And they do cause destruction. Once a month you will travel to the dark universe and repair the damage to the doorway. This is your simplest task. Merely place the stone against the doorway and it is done.
The stone also provides all the protection you will need while there. As long as you are in physical contact with the artifact, the demons cannot touch you. They cannot come near you. Never lose contact with the key while in the dark universe!
Lane picked up the brown stone and rubbed its smooth edge with her thumb. "See Sweets, this will protect me."
There were quite a few more pages, but Lane stopped for the moment. She had finished it later that night while Allie slept peacefully next to her.
* * *
"Ten times we went," Lane mumbled as she sat beside the recuperating blonde, "and everything went perfectly." She clearly remembered that disturbing first time they visited the eerie dimension.
* * *
They had argued for hours. Lane insisted on going alone, because of the danger. She knew she would be protected. Allie protested that she would rather they die together than never know what might have happened if Lane never returned. At one point during the passionate exchange Allie grabbed Lane's hand, the one holding the stone. Allie had instantly felt the vibration…the life as it pulsed from Lane's touch. They were both startled at the revelation. After more words, Lane finally relented but warned, "Do not let go of me!" Allie and Lane clasped hands tightly. Both were nervous and a bit apprehensive, but were also determined, Lane because it was her destiny. Allie was determined because it was Lane's destiny. They both closed their eyes, and with a deep breath, Lane made the muted request. Take me to the dark land. A blinding flash transported them to another world. They hadn't felt a thing, didn't even feel like they had moved
But they certainly had.
Two pairs of eyes opened cautiously. The first thing they noticed was a full moon, which was ten times closer to the surface than in the regular world. It provided the only light. Everything was dreadfully gloomy just as Lane had read. A sinister sensation charged the motionless air, making the eeriness almost tangible. Tiny bolts of lightning sprang from the storm clouds that shared the ominous sky with the oversized moon.
But they were completely alone. So far
They took a few meager steps, still connected at the hands. "How do we find this doorway?" Allie asked in a whisper.
"The stone acts like a compass. It will signal me if we're going in the right direction…or the wrong one."
"Why didn't it just take us directly there?"
Lane watched every corner for movement as they advanced through the city. "That's what I wondered, but the book didn't say." She pointed left, down what would have been a residential street in their world. "Let's go this way."
Allie's jangled nerves caused her to chatter on. "Another thing I wondered, who was fixing this…door in between the time your grandmother stopped and now?"
Lane did have an answer for that one. "According to the book, the demons enter a state of suspended animation every ten years. I guess they just recently…woke up. And so did the stone."
There was a sudden shifting in the darkness at the end of the road. Some…thing came around the corner of a house. Shadows, darker than dark began rushing toward them.
Allie wanted to be strong and prevent the fear from guiding her actions. But even from far away, the creatures were terrifying. "Lane!" she shouted, counting on her hero for protection. She wanted to add, take us home, but held her tongue.
"I know! We'll be okay." Lane tightened her grip on her partner's hand and they stood their ground. In just seconds, the monsters swarmed above and around them like angry bees. Reaching out, but never touching, the creatures tried desperately to attack the intruders. The screeches thundered on in a loud chorus of fury. But with the stone's force for protection, it was merely a futile attempt at intimidation. And the women were intimidated. But with the fate of mankind at stake, Lane was determined to press on and make her family proud. "Just remember," she told Allie, "they can't touch us as long as we have this." She produced the pulsing artifact from her pocket, and the horde of demons retreated even further, obviously panicked in the stone's presence.
Allie's blonde head nodded staunchly, still trying to convince her subconscious. She kept her eyes on her tall lover's deep blue gaze, keeping the vile demons out of her sight. Although, she did glance at the shining rock in Lane's hand once in a while. "I hope you won't get jealous Baby, but I want to give that beauty a big kiss for doing such a great job."
"Sweets, as long as this little gem continues to keep those uglies off our backs, we can both plant a lip lock."
The shadowy things did keep their distance, but followed Lane and Allie as they slowly trekked down the middle of the barren street.
It took them another ten minutes before they finally found the all important doorway between worlds. The arched structure loomed tall between two towering trees just outside the city limits, in the middle of what the women knew to be Willow Park. The ancient door's gray surface was extremely scarred with deep gouges, dents and cracks.
The demons hovered far behind them, waiting for the guardian to fumble and drop the key. It hadn't happened once in a thousand years…but there was always the chance. And if it happened, they would be ready to invade in force.
Doing exactly as she had been instructed, Lane placed the small stone flat against the damaged structure. The door softly shimmered and then it was whole again. And the monsters finally retreated in a wail of defeat. Allie breathed a sigh of relief.
It seemed almost too easy. But neither one was going to complain.
Lane took another deep breath and made her silent wish. They were safe and home again. It was finished. For now.
* * *
Back in the present, in her room, Lane stood and stretched her stiff back. She glanced at the clock and realized she had been sitting in the chair, barely moving for over five hours. It was just before four AM. She was tired, but not at all sleepy. Anger and frustration wouldn't let her calm down. Lane couldn't sleep until she spoke to Allie. She tossed the stone into its box and got a pair of pajamas from the dresser. Silently, she slipped into the bathroom. Lane studied her exhausted reflection, which was marred with dark patches under her dull eyes. Listlessly, she changed and splashed water on her face, before returning to Allie's side. The blonde still hadn't moved. Lane carefully climbed into the bed, not wanting to jostle Allie's wounded leg. Luckily, it was a huge bed, giving her plenty of room. The blue eyes stared down at the blonde. "What happened this time Sweets? Did we take the mission for granted?" Lane grabbed the remote and turned on the television, but left it muted. Her gaze was on the screen, but her thoughts were firmly planted in nine hours earlier.
* * *
The couple held hands and in an instant they were there once again. Only they found themselves in a different spot then any previous time. "Where are we?" Allie asked instantly.
Lane looked in every direction, searching for something familiar. "I'm not sure," she muttered. There was still no sign of the demons, which was also alarming, because that had never happened before. They always appeared within a few minutes of Lane's arrival.
Allie searched the skies and the patch of woods behind them. "What does the stone say?" she asked, when they seemed lost.
Lane concentrated until she deciphered the message. "We're supposed to go over that hill."
Together, they shuffled across the rocky ground and cautiously climbed the embankment. Reaching the ridge, neither one liked what they saw. The monsters had formed a line, going as far east and west as the eye could see. Each crimson glare was aimed directly at the human pair.
"What are they doing?" Allie asked, even though she knew Lane had no answer.
Lane studied the vile beings, hoping to get an idea from the key. Nothing came so she formed her own conclusion. "New strategy, I guess. But we know they can't stop us." The line backpedaled in unison, but never parted as Lane and Allie advanced, according to the directions from the stone.
It was taking far too long to reach the destination. They had been on the move for more than half an hour. Lane and Allie walked quietly, never taking their eyes off of the monsters. What do they hope to accomplish with this? Lane wondered.
Suddenly, a single screech obliterated the silence. It was a signal, a command to attack. Creatures swooped down on them from all sides. It came so quickly, Lane and Allie didn't have time think, just react. The first few dozen or so fell dead on the ground as they hit the stone's defenses, sacrifices for the cause, but in their wake a few others made it into the weakened circle. In the terrifying fray, Allie instinctively protected her head, releasing Lane's hand in the process.
"Noooo!" Lane screamed. Before the word finished leaving her lips, Allie vanished before her eyes. One of the creatures had tossed some sort of dust on the blonde. With the stone almost instantly back at full strength, the demons immediately backed off and every one flew away swiftly. But they had accomplished their first task.
Lane was nearly insane with panic, terrified for her partner's life. She had no time to think, she just ran, calling out Allie's name, her long legs stirring up the dust of this desolate world. Finally, the stone's power compelled her toward the damaged door. "Damn it! What am I doing here? Help me find Allie!" With no direct answer or assistance forthcoming, Lane hurriedly placed the silent stone against the door and let it work its magic. "Now," she huffed in anger, "take me to Allie. Help me save her. Please!" In the next instance, Lane found herself inside one of the abandoned downtown buildings. Floor after empty floor, she searched for Allie, inside the high rise. But there was no sign of the missing woman…or anything else. Her body consumed with exhaustion and breathless, Lane had to break the search, temporarily. But she would never leave this place without finding the woman she loved. Leaning against a wall, Lane sucked in the hot, dry air. I'll find you Sweets. I promise I will. Lane suddenly felt an unexpected sensation. What? Her free hand came up and rubbed her chest. The pain inside was physical and emotional. It was triggered by guilt, terror and anger. She strongly feared that this time they both might die. Lane knew that if she found Allie's lifeless body, she would throw down the stone and let the evil have its way. Tears of frustration began streaming down her cheeks, leaving tracks in the layer of dust. I can't give up. I won't. Taking a final deep breath, Lane stood on stronger legs, determined not to concede. She stared at the stone in her hand. "You brought me here for a reason," she said. "What am I missing?" Lane closed her eyes and it came to her like an echo of her soul. She heard a heartbeat…that wasn't her own. The only other living being in this world was Allison Peyton. Lane dashed down the nearest stairwell; she just knew that was the direction to go. The beat became stronger and louder as she headed down a long hall toward the back of the building. Her hand landed on a door handle and she pushed it open, expecting to find her partner inside. The room was empty. The dark head dropped. But the double heartbeat was still there. Lane titled her head, adjusting her hearing…there was breathing. The blue eyes searched the dark again, and there in the back corner was a small door. Lane ran to the area and with a mighty heave she ripped open the panel. She grabbed the quivering body and pulled it into her arms, vowing never to let go.
* * *
Allie groaned from her place in the bed. "You're safe Baby," Lane said in a soothing voice. "I'm here." Allie grabbed a handful of Lane's shirt as the dream began. Lane took the trembling hand in hers, lowered herself to the mattress and gathered her scared partner close. She whispered more words of comfort and placed tender kisses on the bruised face. Allie felt the love even in the state of sleep, and was calmed before the nightmare took hold. Lane continued to embrace her, gently rubbing her arm. The motions were as much for herself as for her lover. As her thoughts began to subside, Lane finally drifted off, and only her total exhaustion kept her night terrors at bay.
* * *
The next time the blue eyes opened, they were immediately focused on the beauty that had sent her life soaring to new heights of wonderful. But unfortunately, she couldn't even hope that her lover felt the same. Not anymore. The green eyes looking back appeared very weary and mildly alarmed. But there was also something vacant in that stare. Something that wasn't quite Allison Peyton. Their eyes held without words. But a different kind of terror filled Lane's thoughts. She's going to leave me. Not that I don't think she should. But how will I survive without her?
"How are you feeling?"
Lane's dark brows furrowed. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
Allie wouldn't even try to lie. Lane would never fall for that. "It hurts," she confessed honestly, "but nothing I can't deal with."
"I'm sorry," Lane said. "You can take more of the pain medicine now. But you shouldn't do it on an empty stomach." She started to toss off the covers. "I'll go fix you some breakfast."
Allie reached out to stop her. "Wait! Just stay here a few more minutes."
Lane settled back in the bed. "Okay." She tried to smile, but the emotion didn't quite reach her eyes.
Allie intertwined their fingers, bringing them to her face in a comforting motion. "Are you going to answer my question?" she said.
"I'm fine," Lane answered, trying to be casual. "That fu… the stone protected me."
Allie tapped on a dark temple. "How about up here?"
Lane quickly looked away, a storm of remorse clouding her blue eyes. She wanted to answer Allie's question truthfully, but she didn't want her beloved partner wasting her energy with unnecessary sympathy. "I don't know if I can ever forget the extreme terror I felt when you disappeared and in those minutes I spent searching for you. I would have sold my soul to keep you safe." Lane found the courage to search out her partner's face. "But it must have been so much worse for you. I'm so sorry."
Allie whisked away the tear that fell across Lane's nose. "Honey, please stop apologizing."
"I don't know how." The quake in Lane's voice, betrayed her deepest hurt. "Because it's my…family duty that got you into this."
Allie caressed Lane's wet cheek, wanting to reach over and kiss it, but stiff muscles prevented it. "I am your family too…right?"
Lane's expression revived. "Of course you are! You are my most important family. And that's exactly why I can't lose you."
"You haven't lost me," Allie assured softly. "And I…we just have so much to gain. We should have a child soon." That suggestion completely stunned Lane, as was clearly illustrated by her wide eyes. "The time is right," Allie added. "Don't you think?"
Lane's brain and mouth stuttered somewhat of an answer. "I…ah…well…"
Allie giggled. "I blindsided you with that, didn't I?"
Lane took a deep breath, jump starting her thoughts. "Well, yeah. I mean after what happened last night, how can you think about that right now?"
Allie didn't hesitate with an answer. "But a new generation is exactly what we need now."
Lane considered that Allie's suggestion was a reaction to the trauma. She certainly wanted them to have a family; they both loved children. They talked about that early on in their relationship, but with the current state of her life, Lane wasn't ready to make such an important decision. "Can we discuss this later?" she asked with a small smile. After receiving a short nod, Lane returned to the unpleasant, but necessary topic. "I'm gonna do some research on this whole phenomenon. The book said there were other negative dimensions; maybe another guardian found a way to seal their doorway permanently."
"I guess that's a possibility," Allie said with an unconvinced shrug. "But it's doubtful. Until then, we will continue to do what we have to do."
Lane knew it was inevitable, at least for the near future. She agreed reluctantly. "Yeah. But next time I'm gonna handcuff us together."
* * *
Allie continued to heal over the next days. Lane was there to carry her partner where ever she needed to go around the house. And she waited on Allie hand and foot. By the third day, Allie had convinced Lane to allow her use crutches to keep the weight off of her injured leg. The other bruises had begun to fade, but Lane feared for the wounds that she couldn't see. Emotionally, Allie seemed normal. She had no nightmares, no flashbacks…no concerns. But that wasn't right after the extreme scare she had experienced. Allie was the one who always encouraged them talk about any problems they might be having, as a couple or individually.
Lane had been delaying a necessary conversation. But no longer. She entered the family room of their home to find Allie sitting comfortably in the corner of the sofa. Lane took a seat in a nearby chair. "I think we need to talk about what happened," she said.
"What happened where?" Allie asked, not even lifting her eyes from the magazine she was reading.
"Hon, that's the problem; I think you've blocked out what you experienced on the other side. You just seem to have taken the encounter very lightly. And I'm afraid if you don't try to talk about it, it will only haunt you in the future."
Allie started to say something, but was suddenly stifled by an intense memory. The terror that had branded her soul, during that brief, but excruciating time grabbed hold again, the icy cold fingers rifling through her mind. Her face twisted with emotion.
Lane knelt on the floor in front of her lover. The pained expression she was witnessing drenched her spirit with tears. But she felt it was necessary for Allie's mental health. "Sweets, you're safe. You don't have to tell me what happened in detail. But I don't want you to ignore it either."
Allie nodded vigorously. "That was the most horrifying time of my life," she confessed in a weak voice. "I have not blocked out anything. Believe me, I remember every…" she swallowed hard, "…second. But it won't help me or anyone to ruminate over the facts that we can't change. It happened. It's over. I have chosen to concentrate on much more pleasant things. Even though I know we will have to return to that…wretched place." Allie leaned down and softly kissed her lover's welcoming lips. After the kiss, she stayed close, touching her forehead to Lane's. "I'm okay Baby," she whispered comfortingly. "I promise."
Lane was still unsure, but decided not to press further, hoping Allie's words matched her true thoughts and feelings.
Allie wanted to turn her partner back to happier things. "Hey, it's almost Halloween; are you going to bring out your scary stuff?"
"Hell no!" Lane proclaimed. "I've seen the real horrors. I no longer have the need to recreate cheap copies. My new favorite holiday is Christmas."
"I understand Honey, but we still have to pass out candy. We can't spoil the children's fun. We don't want to spoil our fun either. We need it."
Lane smiled. Even with everything she had been through, Allie was a positive ray of lovely sunshine. Lane kissed her partner soundly. "I'm so glad you love me."
"Me too. And I do…" Allie stopped mid sentence as a whisper of a terrible thought haunted her soul. Hate! Hate! Hate! "…love you." She forcefully repeated. "I love you."
Lane grabbed her hand. "Let's go get that candy." She helped Allie to her feet and retrieved the crutches. Slowly, they were off on their happy hunt for Halloween goodies.
* * *
Two days later, the couple spent a quiet, but fun holiday, giving out candy and other treats. After the final trick or treater had knocked on their door, Lane tossed a couple of handfuls of left over candy into a big bowl and carried it up the stairs. Allie had retired half an hour earlier, and Lane suspected that she was preparing for a romantic evening. "Hey Sweets," Lane called out as she entered the bedroom.
"I'll be out in a minute," came the sultry, but somewhat guttural reply from the bathroom.
Lane chuckled. "You'd better watch doing that with your voice baby, you're gonna hurt your throat."
Behind the closed door, Allie sat in front of the mirror, brushing her freshly washed hair. She wore a dark, sheer, lacey robe over her barely there midnight hued teddy. Brazen was not a word that would usually have described Allison Peyton, but that is exactly how she had been feeling in the last couple of days. Thoughts of domination and anguish had been permeating her thoughts…especially where her lover was concerned. Allie intended to take her companion to sexual places neither of them had ever encountered before. And then she planned to do it all over again.
Allie's week old wound began to throb. But instead of wanting it to end, she closed her eyes and savored the raw heat…the burn…the lovely pain.
And she wished that feeling on all mankind.
Allie looked at her reflection. Her normally emerald eyes glowed eerily red and her graying skin was shriveled and sunken around thin bones. But she wasn't afraid. She was awed at the crude beauty. Allie raised a clawed hand and stroked the straw texture of the white hair hanging in shreds around her head. Her fanged mouth stretched into a smile at the glory of it all. A voice reached her ear. "Your lonely lover is waiting. You couldn't get any more beautiful, so there's no use in trying. I love you Allie!" The hand trembled and Allie studied the demonic mirror image. "She loves me," Allie muttered. Her eyes snapped shut and she violently shook off the monstrous possession. Her face returned to its normal, attractive appearance. But an underlying need remained. Without giving the experience another thought, Allie calmly put away the hair brush and stood to join her partner. She opened the door to the bedroom and leaned against the casing, twirling a pair of metal circles from her finger. Allie pinned her woman with a heated gaze. "You mentioned handcuffs."
Lane grinned eagerly at the passionate possibilities. She was totally unaware of the evil that was slowly overtaking her lover.
To be continued next Halloween!